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May 252020
Everest Shadow

We have summits from our fictional team! Almost everyone made it but some just barely. However, as we know, the summit is only halfway.

Virtual Everest 2020 – Support the Climbing Sherpas is a joint project of Alan Arnette and several global guide companies. Our objective is to entertain Everest fans during the Coronavirus spring closure and raise money to help the Climbing Sherpas who are not working this spring. While there will be accurate historical references, this series is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Please join us by making a donation using the links below plus by adding your Everest experiences in the comment section.


Snorer was worried about his friend, Old Man. Keying the radio microphone clipped to his chest strap, he called out, “Hey Old Man, where the Hell are you?” The two had developed a unique rapport; a solid friendship built on mutual respect. They liked each other.

Old Man took a step and stopped. He was taking in five deep breaths for each step. The pace was painfully slow. The two Climbing Sherpas with him, Passang and Pertemba, were patient, keeping their eyes on his every step. Hearing Snorer on the radio perked him up, “What the Hell do you want?” He replied with a chuckle. Snorer smiled and said, “I’m going as slow as I can waiting for you to catch up.” Old Man, now with a somber tone, replied, “I’m going as fast as I can. Seriously don’t wait. I’m OK. I believe I’ll make it.”

The two men, separated by a 1,000-feet on the Southeast Ridge of Mt. Everest, had no idea of the drama above and below them.

Girlfriend and Nawang wanted to make up time, so they moved quickly towards the Balcony. He turned her oxygen up to four liters per minute. They reached the turn at the large boulder, and she stopped. She looked up to see a train of headlamps, but when she looked behind, all she saw were two headlamps moving lower and two headlamps moving higher. Her heart sank.

She asked Nawang, “Should I go back? Do we have a chance to summit? What should I do?” Nawang looked at his watch; it was late, 4:00 am. They had 1,500-feet to go. If she was fast, she might be able to climb 300-feet an hour and summit around 9:00 that morning, more likely ten or even 11. This was not too late to summit, but they would run into a lot of traffic coming down from the summit. “We have time, Didi,” Nawang replied. They turned towards the Balcony and began the quest.

Southeast Ridge

“Mingma Mingma, no oxygen, no oxygen, help!” She cried out, pulling her mask down and stepping very close to him. Mingma, not saying a word, made a fist and hit the tube running between her mask and the oxygen cylinder and hit it hard. Shocked, she was pushed back a step. “Frozen,” Was all he said. She slipped the mask back up immediately feeling the cool, refreshing flow of life-giving oxygen. A simple solution solved a critical problem. “Happens.” Mingma said as he began the walk across the narrow Cornice Traverse.

With this short delay, Loner with Lhapka and Dutch with Phurba caught up with them. Now the six climbers moved steadily across the Traverse. It was 4:08 am and still dark. It was probably best that they didn’t know what they didn’t see. This section was the most exposed part of the climb. To their left, the mountainside dropped 8,000-feet down the Southwest Face. To their right, another stunning drop, this one 10,000-feet down the Kangshung Face. The path was so narrow that two people couldn’t pass each other on the 400-foot section – a one-way road. This was a real bottleneck on the route. Only their balance and the thin nylon fixed-line kept them alive.

With her oxygen working properly again, She and Mingma moved fast. They reached the Hillary Step a few moments after the Traverse. The Hillary Step was named after Sir Edmund Hillary who came upon it with Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953 as they neared the summit.

Approaching it, She paused to inspect the obstacle. When the 7.8 magnitude Gorkha earthquake occurred in Nepal in 2015, the Hillary Step changed. The rock wall of car and house-sized boulders shifted, and a few fell down the Southwest Face, making the famous obstacle more achievable.

Previously it was a 40-foot high, off-width crack between two boulders with another at the top that required careful navigation and presented extreme exposure. Most people could climb the Step in a few minutes. But it became a bottleneck when inexperienced or fatigued climbers took ten, fifteen minutes or perhaps more to ascend. Even with the fixed rope, people had trouble. And on the descent, many people struggled.  But now everything had changed.

Hillary Step by Jamie McGuiness and Tim Mosedale Hillary Step by Tim Mosedale in 2017 (left) and Jamie McGuiness from 2008 (right)

As She approached the snow slope, Mingma turned around, “Hillary Slope,” he said. She knew he was grinning by the gleam in his eyes. The first rays of the sun were just appearing. Staying clipped into the fixed-line, they easily cleared the Step and followed a low-angled snow slope. She was only 197-feet from the summit. She turned around to see her four teammates cramponing up the Step. “Let’s wait and summit together.” She said to Mingma. The pause allowed her to look around, but she knew the best view was yet to come.

Old Man, almost to the South Summit, was caught in a long line of climbers from other teams, maybe as many as 50. He took solace that the scrum was moving slowly, giving him cover. At the South Summit, he and Passang and Pertemba took a break. The Climbing Sherpas swapped out his bottled oxygen with a fresh tank. Running at four lpm meant that he would go through at least two more bottles than those at lower flow rates. He also took the opportunity to look around. He knew that by reaching the South Summit, his chances of summiting were excellent. “Thank you, thank you.” He said to the Sherpas as they put the bottle back in his pack. “You’re welcome.”

Guide had been shadowing Old Man. He sincerely wanted to see him summit. “I’m going to hang out here and wait for Girlfriend. Nawang told me over the radio they are moving well and should be here soon, so you go on. Hopefully we’ll meet at the top.”

Buddies approached the Hillary Step. “Almost there,” Bud said to Buddy who pulled his mask down and flashed a huge grin. As Buddy stepped on the snow slope, he slipped. Soft snow had gathered underneath his crampons. He used his ice axe to hit the side of his boot to shake the snow clod away. “Hmm, not as cold as we thought if the snow is getting soft,” he said.

Girlfriend and Nawang were making excellent time and were halfway up the Southeast Ridge. She took off her clear googles and put on her mountain sunglasses. Seeing the sunrise made her feel better.

“He’s at the South Col.” It was Dawa on the radio with an update on Boyfriend. “Is he OK?” She asked. “Yes, Didi, he is fine, just tired. “ She took a deep breath and sent out a thought of gratitude. He would remain there until she got back down.

The rising sun kissed the cornice to her right as She and Mingma approached the summit. Her mind was a blur. She had random thoughts from her training to her husband and kids. She thought of her mom and immediately felt a lump in her throat. She and her mom had talked of Everest for decades. But in recent years, her mom had lost her memory from Alzheimer’s.

She had told her mom that she was going to Everest. In a moment of lucidity, her mom smiled and said, “Honey, you will do well, just please come back home to all of is. We need you.” As She thought of that moment, tears welled up in her eyes.

They took a few more steps towards a snow bench and the prayer flag-covered summit. They could go no higher.

Mingma keyed the radio and let out a yell, “Summittttttttttttt”

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

Climbing Sherpa Support

Who, how much, and how often you donate is a personal decision. Maybe you climbed with one of the guides, or plan to one day. Perhaps you have followed them for years and want to support their Climbing Sherpa team, or maybe you support by geography – Nepali, American, Austrian, British, New Zealand. It’s up to you and will be much appreciated.

My sincere appreciation to those companies who accepted my invitation to join Virtual Everest 2020 – Support the Climbing Sherpas:

For an overview of the Virtual Everest 2020 – Support the Climbing Sherpas, please visit this post.

Previous Virtual Everest 2020 posts:

Comments on/from Facebook

  2 Responses to “Virtual Everest 2020: Summit!!”


    Alan, I bet ya your eye’s welled up at when you typed “Summitttttttttttt”.